Tottenham Hotspur History

tottenham hotspur

The club that we all love has enjoyed a rich history that dates all the way back to 1882. We’re closing in on our 140th anniversary and in that time, Tottenham have been ground breakers and multiple trophy winners both at home and in Europe.

If you know your history then you’ll already be aware of the great players that have graced this club, along with the managers that have guided them along the way. There is, however, always scope for gaps in anyone’s knowledge so why not spare a few minutes to look at our comprehensive Tottenham History guide.

Early Origins

Spurs history can be traced back to 1882 when the club was first formed by a group of schoolboys in the Tottenham area. At first, Spurs were referred to as Hotspur Football Club with the name taken from the Shakesperian character Harry Hotspur. Legend has it that early meetings were held under lamp posts around Northumberland Park and that the club grew out of a cricket side that were simply looking for something to do in the winter.

Two years later in 1884, the club was renamed as Tottenham Hotspur to recognise the local area and competitive matches began in earnest. The first competitive game to be recorded took place in 1885 when Tottenham Hotspur Football Club took on St Albans in the London Football Association Cup.

It’s interesting to note that this was essentially a schoolboy team at the time and many players from those early years of spurs history were young teenagers. They would play against teams of their own age group but occasionally they would take on adults so those early results were quite mixed.

Progression was steady and Tottenham looked to join up with established leagues. In 1895, a further milestone was hit when the club made the decision to turn professional.

Spurs became a limited company in 1898 and in the same year, Frank Brettell was appointed as the first ever manager. Despite an attempt to join the Football League, that professional status had been unable to secure a place among the elite of English football. Tottenham Hotspur continued with their non-league status but they were about to announce themselves in a big way.

A New Century

Tottenham Hotspur History

It’s often been said that it’s lucky for Spurs when the year ends in one and, at the start of a new century, the Tottenham Hotspur history books record a feat that is unlikely to ever be broken. In 1901, Spurs won the FA Cup for the first time when they beat Sheffield United after a replay.

The first game was played at Crystal Palace and history was made when the 1901 final became the first to be covered by Pathe News so fans can still enjoy some black and white footage today. After a 2-2 draw, the sides travelled to Bolton’s Burnden Park ground where Tottenham ran out as 3-1 winners. Two goals from Sandy Brown secured the draw in the first leg and Brown was on the scoresheet again with the final goal in the replay, following strikes from John Cameron and Tom Smith.

This was the first of eight FA Cup wins for Spurs to date but there was great significance for the wider footballing world. In winning the 1901 final, Tottenham became the first non-league club to lift the trophy since the football league was formed in 1888. When you consider the comparative strength of Premier League clubs to those outside of the top four tiers, it’s tough to see how this record can ever be matched.

That was the first in a series of ‘firsts’ for Tottenham Hotspur FC and it was the highlight of the early part of the 20th century.

As we’ve seen, John Cameron scored the second goal in that 1901 replay and he was an important figure in spurs history. The Scot was our player manager at the time and he held that role from 1899 until 1907. Fred Kirkham and Peter McWilliam followed and the latter took the club through until the outbreak of the First World War.

Before the century was done, another major landmark in Tottenham Hotspur history came along in 1898 when the club moved to their White Hart Lane stadium.

By that stage, Tottenham Hotspur had become a fully fledged league club and by the time that hostilities started, we were playing our football in division two.

Between the Wars

Peter McWilliam resumed his duties when football returned after the conflict and in his first full season, he took Spurs back to division one at the end of 1919/20. It was a notable achievement as more silverware was added to the trophy cabinet but a year later, it got even better.

That luck was with us again in 1921 as Tottenham Hotspur lifted the FA Cup for the second time in their history. Played at Stamford Bridge, a solitary goal from Jimmy Dimmock was enough to see off Wolves in the final as Spurs secured the win by the narrowest of margins. Dimmock was a central figure in Spurs’ success at the time and he went on to score exactly 100 goals for the club.

Tottenham also claimed the Charity Shield the following season and by that stage, the club had started to display the famous cockerel emblem on their shirts.

Spurs were serious contenders in those days across both domestic competitions, and in 1921/22, they came second in the league to Liverpool. Manager Peter McWilliam had come so close to that league title but we would have to wait some time for our first divisional honour.

The wait was partly down to the outbreak of the Second World War, but by the time hostilities broke out, Spurs had started to slide down the table. In fact, in 1927/28, Tottenham were relegated to the old second division, even though the club were only four points behind Derby County in sixth.

In 1932/33, Spurs were promoted back to the first division after finishing second but the stay in the top flight was brief with a further relegation coming two years later. Finally, on September 3rd, 1939, War was declared and the English campaign was abandoned with just three games played.

Push and Run

When football resumed after the end of World War II, there was little improvement in the early seasons but that was to change from 1949 onwards. The catalyst for transformation was the appointment of a new manager – Arthur Rowe – whose first job was to get Tottenham back up into the first division.

That achievement was clinched early on as the club won the old second division title at the end of the 1949/50 campaign. Rowe had been working with a number of top class players including Ted Ditchburn, Len Duquemin, Bill Nicholson and Eddie Bailey while Alf Ramsey had arrived from Southampton in 1949.

It was a proud moment in spurs history but Rowe and his side were far from finished. In the very next season, Tottenham Hotspur won the first division title for the first time in their history, beating Manchester United into second place with a three-point margin.

Rowe was employing tactics that would become known as Push and Run – a simple style that had turned the club from a competent second division outfit into a side that finished on top of the league. Rather than being a case of thumping the ball upfield and running on behind it – as some assume – Push and Run featured a quick passing game and was also referred to as ‘one-two.’

The following season, Spurs finished second to Manchester United but the team fell into decline after that point. The poor state of the pitch was blamed to an extent as ‘push and run’ required a firm surface. Players also began to drift away from the club and by 1955, Rowe was gone. He was replaced by Jimmy Anderson for three years until, in 1958, we were about to embark on the ‘Glory Years’.

The Bill Nicholson Glory Years

bill nicholson
Bill Nicholson

Bill Nicholson was the most successful manager in the history of Tottenham Hotspur FC and under his stewardship, the club won a host of trophies. This was also the period when Spurs recorded a number of additional ‘firsts’

By the time he took up managerial duties from Jimmy Anderson in 1958, Nicholson was already well-known to Tottenham supporters as he had served for 17 years as a player from 1938 to 1955. When he entered the hot seat, ‘Billy Nick’ inherited a number of players – signed by Anderson – who would be at the heart of the major successes that lay in store.

Cliff Jones, Terry Dyson, Bobby Smith and Maurice Norman were already at the club while Nicholson would make some key signings as he assembled his squad. Glory would follow but firsty, the new manager would have to turn Tottenham into a competitive unit once again.

It wouldn’t take long: In Nicholson’s first game in charge, Spurs beat Everton 10-4 which was the record win in Tottenham History at the time. It wasn’t a good season overall, however, as Spurs finished in 18th place at the end of the 1958/59 campaign.

The next season saw a significant improvement with Nicholson leading Tottenham into third place – just two points behind Champions Burnley. It was a promise of more to come but few could have foreseen just what would happen in that incredible 1960/61 season.

By the end of the campaign, Tottenham had become the first side in the 20th century to claim the domestic double of first division title and FA Cup. The achievements had been in little doubt after a 16 game unbeaten run at the start of the season where 15 of those matches ended in victory.

The title was eventually secured with three games to play when Tottenham beat runners up Sheffield Wednesday by two goals to one. In the FA Cup, the final put Spurs up against Leicester City where goals from Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson sealed a 2-0 victory.

The club couldn’t follow up with a title win in 1961/62 but they did successfully defend the FA Cup for the first time in spurs history. Despite such a soaraway success in the previous campaign, Nicholson didn’t sit back as he moved to sign Jimmy Greaves who would go on to become the club’s leading scorer.

Greaves was central to the campaign and he scored the opener as Tottenham beat Burnley 3-1 in the 1962 FA Cup final. Smith added the second while skipper Danny Blanchfower netted the third from the penalty spot.

English sides now had the chance to compete in Europe: In 1961/62, Tottenham reached the semi finals of the European Cup but by the end of 1963, Nicholson’s team had become the first English club to win a European Trophy.

Glory came in the Cup Winners Cup where, in the final, Tottenham overcame Spain’s Atletico Madrid by an emphatic 5-1 scoreline. Greaves and Dyson scored twice with John White completing the rout.

These were, indeed, the Glory Days but certain players couldn’t go on forever, Blanchflower was nearing the end of his career and the tragic death of John White was a cruel blow. The club was about to enter a quiet period in spurs history but they did secure the FA Cup for a fifth time in 1967. Goals from Frank Saul and Jimmy Roberston helped overcome Chelsea in the final by two goals to one.

Tottenham would never quite hit the same heights as they did in the early 1960s but ten years on, they were still winning trophies. The double side had all gone and were replaced by new faces including Martin Chivers, Martin Peters, Alan Gilzean, Pat Jennings and Mike England. Meanwhile, a young Steve Perryman was emerging and he would later go on set a new record for most appearances in a Tottenham shirt.

This group of players was instrumental in securing three trophies in the early 1970s. League Cup triumphs came in 1971 and 1973 while Spurs became the first side to win the new UEFA Cup in 1972. The success under Nicholson wasn’t quite at an end but a golden era was about to come to an abrupt halt.

Freefall and Relegation

Bill Nicholson finally left the club in 1974 after Tottenham lost the UEFA Cup final to Feyenoord over two legs. A new chapter in Tottenham history was about to begin but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be a happy one.

Nicholson’s chosen successor was Terry Neill and there was some doubt over his appointment as the Northern Irishman had enjoyed an 11-year playing career at great rivals Arsenal. Neill would spend two years at White Hart Lane before crossing the North London divide once again to take charge of the Gunners from 1976 to 1983.

During his tenure, Tottenham finished 19th at the end of the 1974/75 season and only just avoided the drop. It was to be a temporary reprieve and with Neill gone and the playing staff in a poor state, Spurs were relegated into the second division at the end of 1976/77.

It was a bleak moment in Tottenham Hotspur history but thankfully, our stay in the second tier was to be a brief one. Under new manager Keith Burkinshaw, Spurs were promoted in 1977/78 after an entertaining season that included a 9-0 demolition of Bristol Rovers. Tottenham finished in third place after dropping points late on and while it had been a swift return, there were obvious questions as to whether the club was equipped to compete in division one.

Recovery Under Keith Burkinshaw

In the summer of 1978, Tottenham Hotspur pulled off one of the biggest transfer coups in the history of the game. Argentina had just won the World Cup on home soil and Spurs moved to sign two members of their successful squad – Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa. The two would go on to become legends in spurs history but for now, they had to lift a side that had been through a turbulent few years.

With the emerging Glenn Hoddle joining the Argentinians in midfield, Tottenham competed well and while a further relegation never looked likely, the club never really looked like challenging for honours. One of the issues lay up front where Tottenham’s list of strikers included journeymen players such as Colin Lee, Ian Moores, Chris Jones and Gerry Armstrong. All four enjoyed happy moments in a Spurs shirt but their success was fleeting and manager Burkinshaw needed some more reliable and prolific firepower.

Ahead of the 1980/81 season, Tottenham signed Garth Crooks from Stoke City and paired him with the Scottish striker Steve Archibald who joined from Aberdeen. Suddenly, Spurs were more of a force and at the end of that campaign, the trophy cabinet was to be unlocked for the first time in eight years.

Spurs won the 1981 FA Cup final for the sixth time in Tottenham Hotspur history when they overcame Manchester City at Wembley. As it was in 1901, the game required a replay after Glen Hoddle’s deflected free kick had cancelled out Tommy Hutchinson’s opener in the first match.

The replay was one of the best games ever seen at the famous old stadium as Tottenham were made to work for a 3-2 victory. Crooks equalised at 2-2 but the game belonged to Ricky Villa who scored the opener before a mazy dribble and brilliant finish secured a late winner.

History was to repeat itself again and, as they had done 20 years earlier under Bill Nicholson, Spurs successfully defended the FA Cup in 1982. Queens Park Rangers were the opponents this time with another replay needed after a 1-1 scoreline in the first game. In the follow up, a Hoddle penalty was enough to split the two teams although the 1-0 outcome belied the fact that Tottenham looked comfortable for much of the 90 minutes.

Spurs failed to make it three FA Cup wins in a row in 1983 but the following year, Burkinshaw guided his team to success in Europe. A strong finish in the league in 1982/83 saw the club qualify for the UEFA Cup and by the end of the campaign, they would lift the trophy for the second time in Tottenham history.

In a two-legged final against Belgian side Anderlecht, both games finished 1-1 before Spurs edged out their opponents in a dramatic penalty shootout.

Burkinshaw had taken Spurs from the second division and by the end of his tenure in 1984, he had overseen three major trophy wins and he had turned Tottenham into a side who were challenging in England’s top flight.

The next few years would be barren in comparison and, following that UEFA Cup success in 1984, it would be another seven years before silverware arrived at White Hart Lane. In the interim, one manager almost made the biggest possible contribution to Tottenham Hotspur history.

David Pleat’s Nearly Men

Tottenham Hotspur History
David Pleat

Many Spurs fans will tell you that the best football side to have never won a trophy was assembled by David Pleat in 1986/87. After a fairly unremarkable period under Peter Shreeves, the former Luton manager came into the hot seat at the end of the previous campaign and the transformation was remarkable.

Pleat was blessed with quality players and, to an extent, he enjoyed a certain share of luck that had deserted his predecessor. For example, Glenn Hoddle remained injury free across the campaign and, despite the fact that this would be his final showing in a Tottenham shirt, he was as brilliant as ever.

Behind the back four, the consistent Ray Clemence was in goal while the signing of Richard Gough in defence was an inspired one. Alongside Gary Mabbutt in the centre, Gough brought calm and assured play to a side who had often been defined by calamitous defending.

Hoddle, Chris Waddle, Steve Hodge, Paul Allen and Ossie Ardiles formed a high class midfield but undoubtedly, the star of proceedings was Clive Allen. The striker was another player to be beset by injuries while Peter Shreeves was in charge but in 1986/87, Allen stayed fit and returned an incredible 49 goals across all competitions.

Tottenham were, at one stage, on course for a historic domestic treble but despite playing some of the best football by any Spurs side in history, they just couldn’t get over the line. By the end of the season, we had reached the semi finals of the League Cup while finishing third in the first division. By far the most agonising aspect of the whole season was, however, saved for the very end.

In the FA Cup final at Wembley, Tottenham started as hot favourites against an underrated Coventry City side. An early goal from Clive Allen suggested a comfortable 90 minutes but Coventry would go on to win 3-2 and therefore inflict a defeat in an FA Cup final for the first time in Tottenham Hotspur history.

Pleat was sacked early on in the following season in controversial circumstances. Richard Gough left for Glasgow Rangers and that great side of 1986/87 suddenly fell apart very quickly but those who witnessed that campaign will never forget it.

Venables Comes Close as Premier League era Begins

The early 1990s brought about one of the most significant developments in English football ever. With satellite television starting to make its mark on the game, breakaway clubs began to talk about forming a new Premier League and distancing themselves from the old order.

Accordingly, at the start of the 1992/93 season, the Premiership began and Tottenham Hotspur were one of the strongest sides at the time. Terry Venables had been busy following the sacking of David Pleat in 1987 and, at the start of the new decade, Spurs had won the FA Cup for the eight time in their history.

In the early part of Venables’ reign, Tottenham fielded world class players including Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker and Chris Waddle but by the time the Premier League started, those three had moved on.

In their place, the likes of Darren Anderton, Nick Barmby, Neil Ruddock and Ian Walker were developing into a dangerous side and, shortly after the 1992/93 campaign began, Venables made a key signing as he lured prolific striker Teddy Sheringham over from Nottingham Forest.

At the end of that inaugural Premier League season, Spurs finished eighth in the division while reaching the semi finals of the FA Cup. That league placing is a modest one and it doesn’t really tell the full story of a side that played highly entertaining football and looked to have a big future ahead of it.

Sadly, following a much-publicised falling out with the Chairman Alan Sugar, Venables’ tenure wasn’t to last a great deal longer. It all ended in the summer of 1993 and, after that side had shown so much promise, the wilderness years were beckoning.

Manager Merry-Go-Round and a new Century

When Terry Venables left the club in 1993, something of a merry-go-round followed as Spurs went through six managers in the 11 years that followed up until 2004. It was a chaotic period in Tottenham history and that list doesn’t even include caretakers.

Ossie Ardiles was the first to take up the challenge but the popular Argentinian wasn’t able to replicate his heroics as a player. Ossie did, however, oversee the start of the 1994/95 season when the prolific German international striker Jurgen Klinnsman arrived at White Hart Lane. This was one of the biggest transfer deals in the history of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and it would lead to a thrilling season on the pitch.

Unfortunately, while an attack-minded squad including Klinnsman, Teddy Sheringham, Darren Anderton and Nick Barmby were scoring plenty of goals, the defence was in some disarray and results were poor. Ardiles was replaced by Gerry Francis but little improved and in turn, the former QPR boss gave way to Christian Gross in 1997. Gross’ stay was brief and a year later, the club brought George Graham into the hot seat.

As a former Arsenal player and manager, the fans had mixed feelings about Graham but he did deliver some silverware. In 1999, the League Cup was won for the third time in Tottenham history as we beat Leicester City by a solitary goal at Wembley.

In 2001, Graham was sacked by new Chairman Daniel Levy who brought in Glenn Hoddle from Southampton. Like Ardiles before him, Hoddle couldn’t recreate old glories while in the Spurs’ manager’s seat and he was duly replaced by Jacques Santini who stayed for just 13 games.

This unhappy period was underpinned by poor league results and the occasional battle against relegation. The merry-go-round hurt the club but thankfully, things were about to change for the better.

Martin Jol turns it around

When Santini departed following a supposed disagreement with Sporting Director Frank Arnesen, the club moved to bring in Martin Jol from RKC Waalwijk. Jol had played professionally in England with West Brom and Coventry City but, while he came with a good reputation, his managerial career had returned a solitary Dutch Cup win with Roda.

In time, Martin Jol would become one of the most popular managers in Tottenham Hotspur history and although he didn’t win a trophy in his three years at White Hart Lane, he took the club into Europe and turned the team into a far stronger unit on the pitch.

Jol was controversially fired in 2007 but his legacy continues. From the moment he was appointed in 2004, he went about transforming Tottenham from also rans to genuine contenders.

Ramos, Redknapp, AVB and Sherwood

Harry Redknapp
Harry Redknapp

Little had really changed in the boardroom and, once Jol had departed, Tottenham would work their way through four managers in the next six years. Juande Ramos was the first and, while he did bring some silverware following a 2-1 win over Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup at Wembley, he left the following season with the club firmly in the relegation zone.

Harry Redknapp moved in and he completed his first job – lifting Spurs away from danger – and from there, he began to emulate Martin Jol in terms of success. The next step from the Jol era was to take the side into the Champions League and Redknapp did that for the first time in spurs history ahead of the 2010/11 season.

With Gareth Bale developing into one of the best players in world football, he was joined by Aaron Lennon, Peter Crouch and Rafael Van Der Vaart as an attack-minded Spurs progressed into the quarter finals of the UCL.

It was a significant milestone but Harry’s time would eventually run out and in 2012 he was replaced by Andre Villas-Boas. The former Chelsea man promised much but delivered little and, after replacing the departed Bale with seven players of mixed quality, AVB left and Tim Sherwood moved in.

Sherwood was very positive about his qualities as a manager and, with Emmanuel Adebayor finding scoring form, results did improve, but the club were clearly looking at other avenues.

The Pochettino Years

mauricio pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino

Cynics will always look back at Mauricio Pochettino’s time as manager of Spurs and point to the fact that he did not secure a trophy. Yes, that might be inescapable but what a period in Tottenham history this was. No other manager had taken the club so close to a Premier League title and no-one has guided Tottenham to a Champions League / European Cup final.

Not for the first time in spurs history, the club raided Southampton as they went in search of a new manager. Pochettino spent three years in charge of Espanyol before coming to England and taking the hot seat at St Mary’s in 2013. Outside of his native Argentina, Poch was a virtual unknown who was famous only for fouling Michael Owen as a player in the 2002 World Cup.

Southampton’s ‘gamble’ seemed to pay instant dividends and, in his first full season in charge, Pochettino took the Saints into eighth place while recording their highest ever points tally in the Premier League era.

It looked to be a strong hint at his potential and, having dispensed with the services of Tim Sherwood in 2014, Spurs pounced to put Pochettino in charge at White Hart Lane. A change was almost instantaneous and part of that was down to the emergence of Harry Kane as a world class striker. Roberto Soldado had been brought in with the Gareth Bale money but failed to impress so Kane, after showing early promise, was given a chance to make the centre forward position his own.

The move paid dividends and by the time that the 2019/20 season took a break due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, striker had scored 181 goals in 278 matches for the club. If he stays at the new White Hart Lane, Kane will surely beat Jimmy Greaves’ record and go down as the highest scorer in spurs history.

Behind the front man, Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min, Christian Eriksen and others were supplying the assists and Pochettino came so close to guiding Spurs to league glory. The team came third in the EPL when Leicester City claimed the trophy and second the following year. Tottenham couldn’t get over the line but the manager had them qualifying for the Champions League on a regular basis and that’s where we were given some unforgettable moments.

Mauricio Pochettino’s reign gave us some memorable times but nothing will come close to the excitement of the 2018/19 Champions League run. We made it all the way to the final and, the highlight was an incredible win over Ajax in the semis where Spurs came from three goals down over two legs to win on the away goals rule. Lucas Moura’s hat trick and his late, late winner in Amsterdam will never be forgotten – nor will the celebrations that followed.

Sadly, Tottenham couldn’t get over the line against Liverpool in the final but it had been an incredible campaign. However, as we have done in so many campaigns prior to this one, Spurs were about to come back down to earth in a very short space of time.

Mourinho and a look to the Future

jose mourinho
José Mourinho

After a poor run of results at the start of the 2019/20 season, Mauricio Pochettino’s reign as manager of Tottenham Hotspur FC came to an end in November 2019. It was a sad time for the majority of Spurs fans who had nothing but happy memories of his time in charge of the club and it’s still difficult for many to move on.

Mourinho certainly improved those results on the pitch but some rebuilding needs to be done when football returns following the unscheduled break from March 2020. Nobody knows what the future holds but it’s been an incredible ride as a Spurs fan and hopefully Jose will get us back up to the top where we belong.